China will fund the construction of a counter-terrorism base in Badakshan province in northern Afghanistan to block cross-border infiltration of the ethnic Uyghur militants.
Fergana News Agency (FNA) quoted Gen. Dawlat Waziri of the Afghan defence ministry as saying that China would provide financial support to build the base, whose location is yet to the determined.
Gen. Waziri said the Chinese help would cover all material (weaponry, uniforms for soldiers, military equipment) expenses and technical costs.
The decision to build the facility was taken during last month’s visit to China by Afghanistan Defence Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami. He met his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan, and Gen. Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission.
According to ChinaMilitary, a website affiliated to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Gen. Xu said during his meeting with Mr. Bahrami that China was willing to “strengthen pragmatic cooperation in areas of military exchange and anti-terrorism, and safeguard the security of the two countries and the region, making contributions to the development of China-Afghanistan strategic partnership of cooperation”.
FNA said that Mr. Bahrami and Mr. Chang agreed that their counter-terrorism focus should not be confined to Badakshan alone, but cover the entire northern region of Afghanistan.
It quoted an Afghan defence ministry official saying, “The Chinese side fears that the Chinese Uyghurs, who are among the terrorists now, can cross the territory of China through Afghanistan and make problems for the Chinese authorities.”
FNA, quoting retired Afghan general Atikulla Amarhel, said that the Chinese side closely monitors a massive gorge on the Chinese side of the China-Afghan border, where a large number of Chinese Muslims reside.
Possible links to Islamic State
He pointed out that large groups of Chinese Uyghurs had received training in Al Qaeda camps that were operational during Taliban rule in Afghanistan, prior to 2001. Many have now dissolved among different groups of foreign mercenaries, “and, naturally, can create great problems for the Chinese authorities”.
The FNA defence ministry source said that ethnic Uyghurs are part of the Islamic State present in Afghanistan’s northern regions.
Afghan analysts said that the largest group of Uyghur militants already resides in the Afghan province of Badakhshan, from where they can rapidly shift to China.
The Afghan defence minister’s visit follows the first trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan last month.
“China has been able to establish itself as an honest broker in the eyes of the Afghans,” a highly placed source told The Hindu.
FNA said that a special commission has been established to determine the location of the base, evaluate construction costs and tackle other technical issues. It said that a delegation of Chinese military experts is now expected to arrive in Afghanistan.